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Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Blog

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Difference between Defamation, Libel and Slander

If you have worked hard to build and maintain a good reputation, either personally or in a business context, you likely understand the affects that damage to this reputation can have.  If someone does engage in conduct that is damaging to your reputation, tort law provides an avenue for you to take action: a lawsuit for defamation.

Defamation can arise in various forms and be claimed by an individual, business or other entity.  While defamation is the term encompassing all types of statements that cause injury to one’s reputation, you can be defamed in a number of ways. Libel is defamation that occurs in a written format.  For example, statements written in an article or book that are damaging to one’s reputation constitute libel.  With the ever expanding use of the internet, written statements in website content, social media and even chats are considered libelous if they are likely to cause injury.  Slander is defamation done orally.  It is important not to underestimate the power of the spoken word when it comes to reputation and anyone injured by this type of speech may have an action.

Although defamation can be committed in a few different ways, the elements of each action are usually the same.  In order to have a successful claim for defamation, libel or slander, it must be proven that a false statement was made.  It must also be proven that the maker of the statement had some level of intent, at the very least negligence.  This means that a statement made either with intent to cause injury, knowledge of the injury that could result or without the appropriate amount of care, can result in a claim for defamation.  The statement must also have been published in some way to at least one other person and there must be proof of damages.  You will likely not be able to determine if all of these elements are satisfied and it is therefore important to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in the field to find out whether you have a claim.  Contact us today for a consultation.


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Richard F. Silber is admitted to practice in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. From his office in Georgetown, he and his legal team assist clients throughout the Washington metropolitan area.



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